Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Some things to think about

I have linked through the title Bound by law? Tales from the public domain (2006), by Aoki, Keith; Boyle, James; & Jenkins, Jennifer. The work pursues the boundary between public domain and intellectual property. This issue is related to one of the things I hope to discuss today in class. I will be brining in a short film style short that I made that violates several issues around copyright, but that I think could be seen as its new intelectual work. The use of media to create and think about new ideas is one that I think the powerpoint music video assignments we read about deal with. However, as Porter and DeVoss point out enforcing copyright seems to structure students works in particular ways. Including different types of media in our future classrooms are likely to continue to deal with many of these issues.

A Bit of the Music Geek

Carter's article was interesting - if a bit too associative for my taste. I particularly enjoyed "The Hustle": the emphasis on the "so who?" question rather than the "so what?" question. I've always thought in terms of association: it is an invaluable tool for understanding, and one that I think is underemphasized in entry-level courses. Teaching students to make that jump, to see the developmental chain rather than a box of information, is teaching them to understand the knowledge that we are trying to impart. Within the chain of association, we can see the dissidents, the advocates, the interaction and mediation of ideas, and ultimately, how they evolved into their present state.

I must admit - I also loved that he mentioned The Who - possibly the greatest rock band of all time. When I saw mention of the band, I paid closer attention, and noticed that he left out John Entwistle. Given the nature of the piece, and my love of associative thinking, I realized this morning that this was a great error. Think of the important facets of composition in the contemporary era: with Townshend, we get music and lyrics (sound and text), with Daltrey we get singing and lyrics (orality and sound), with Moon we get rhythm (the rhythm of speech, even when written). What was Entwistle's purpose? Bass is certainly underappreciated, but his contribution to the band was much greater than that. John Entwistle was the artist behind many of the posters and album covers: most notably the design for Tommy, Quadrophenia, and The Who by Numbers. Without John Entwistle, we lose the visual piece of the art.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Podcasting and Plagiarism here at NC State

I'm not sure how many of you are following this, but this is an article from the Technician about our own Dr. Schrag who began posting podcast versions of his lectures for sale on his website. About a week after it began, the dean had him take the site down due to some confusion over the intellectual property/copyright issues that surround this.

I see this being a big issues in the years to come in the educational world. Should a lecture podcast be treated the same as a published journal article? Is it right to charge students to obtain these recordings? Does paying for a podcast clear up the copyright issues or make matters worse? Frankly, I would love to see more professors offer these as a free service. I'm sure most will disagree with me due to the issues I addressed above, but I think the value of this technology cannot be ignored or bogged down in the cumbersome intellectual property debate.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Reflection on our discussion today

Here are my ruminations on/summary of our discussion today at Mitch's. We touched on some important issues, including the possible roles of machine scoring within the course sequence and within the writing proces, some rhetorical issues, and the possible technological issues still to be overcome. I found it significant that, as with Dr. Miller's survey, we really couldn't disengage the rhetorical issues from the technological hurdles. As Adam's MSNBC article from yesterday indicates, the technological issues are trying to keep up with a rapidly moving target, so there's a lot of work to do.

I particularly enjoyed our discussion of the roles of machine scoring within the educational process. As Chris pointed out, there are different issues with different classes, and perhaps machine scoring might find more of a place earlier in a student's career, but I think we all agreed that there are significant hurdles to overcome for the technology before that would happen, since that's the most critical part of a student's career for the development of their writing skills. Adam suggested that the use of machine scoring would have to be universal because of differences in scoring by machines and by humans. The transition from using primarily one to primarily the other will bring up pedagogical issues that we might not even imagine yet. I liked Adam's suggestion that perhaps machine scoring would be useful in the drafting stage. This might avoid some problems with the rhetorical situation that we tried to address and might also avoid some of Chris's concerns about machine scoring turning writing into a product rather than a process. Chad rightly pointed out potential issues with structure and organization that would have to be overcome. A slightly tangential discussion that I thought was interesting was Chris's idea of using machine scoring to defend against claims of ideological bias on the part of the instructor.

As I mentioned at the beginning, it's exceedingly difficult to leave out technological issues and discuss only the situational and audience issues that machine scoring raises. It's clear that while we might be pushed by others to move in this direction, significant questions remain on many fronts before we make machine scoring a standard tool in our classes.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Automated Assessment and the Rhetorical Situation

I want to start out tomorrow thinking about how automated assessment affects the rhetorical situation for the student. It seems reasonable to say that those of us who teach professional writing (which in this group is probably only me) can only approximate the rhetorical situations for the genres that we teach, but we do the best we can. Those of us who teach academic writing and speaking possibly are able to more closely mimic the rhetorical situations and exigences that students will see down the road -- but correct me if I'm wrong here! In any event, it seems clear that the presence or absence of a human audience, or perception of such, has a tremendous effect on the approach to and execution of a communication task by our students. Let's start with some of questions similar to what Dr. Miller used in her survey, with which I assisted her: Are there any situations in which is would be acceptable to use automatic assessment for student writing? Of student speaking? Are there rhetorical issues that affect your answer to either of these? In her survey, she asked respondents to assume for the purposes of their answers that all technological issues had been worked out and that such assessment would be reliable, but many of the respondents simply couldn't get past the technical difficulties they predicted couldn't possibly be overcome, including several that appeared in the Anson piece in our readings. What significance does that have for our teaching and assessment of student writing and speaking?

What is the worth of words?

Here's an article I pulled of MSN today which talks about the impact our growing multimedia environment is having on our literacy skills.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006


OK, I'm trying out the email send process.

So here are some things I'm wondering about with respect to copyright issues.

Are these copyright issues?

Placing  something from YouTube on a personal blog.
Cutting some code from a Web site for design purposes and using it in one's own.
Sending a photo image from a Web site to someone via email.
Using an image of a football player at an NFL site to create a wallpaper at one's own site.
Using a recorded song as background music at a blog.
Requiring students to send their papers to TurnItIn.com, which will own the papers for eternity, or the death of the company, whichever comes first.
Sending the recorded lectures of a teacher to other students as compressed files over the Internet.
Placing a video clip on YouTube of a professor lecturing.
Sending an article to a friend which you've located by logging in to your university library.

What's fair use? What's a violation? 

Monday, September 11, 2006

Hypertext today

I really enjoyed Slatin's article on "Reading Hypertext" because I was impressed with how perceptive he was regarding the implications hypertext has had on reading and writing. However, I also was able to see how the modifications and advancements in hypertext writing have changed over time.

One of the points Slatin makes is that hypertext lends itself to three different types of readers; the browser, the user and the co-author. I would argue that we could add another type of reader today; the editor. Hypertext has become such a malleable medium that we have the ability to not only add on to what someone has written, we can now change what they originally said as well. This capability allows readers to consume information in a totally different way. At the very least, the ability to edit should alter the way we define the reader as a co-author.

While the ability to edit someone else's hypertext is appealing, it prevents authors from having any accountability. If I make a claim in my writings on hypertext, the audience has one of two choices; 1) accept what I wrote as true or 2) edit my claim to make it a true statement. This changing nature of fact creates as Stephen Colbert calls it, wikiality. To see him describe it, watch the video below:

The other interesting thing about hypertext is that I see a lot of parallels between how Slatin suggests we approach it and how instructors are approaching new educational methods in the classroom. It used to be that instructors had to create a well defined "beginning" and "end" to get students to understand the concepts being taught. Technology is the classroom, however, has enabled a more free-flowing approach. Students can reach the same conclusions about the material being taught from a number of different perspectives. Some may be visual learners and need visuals to grasp concepts. Other are very literal and can understand ideas by reading them from text. It would seem that just as Slatin says hypertext authors have to predict how the audience will respond to the information being posted, teachers must try and predict what methods will be best for getting the most out of their students.

Plagiarism & Narratives

One of the strongest points in the Adler-Kassner et al. piece (echoed
somewhat by Selfe) was the focus on narrative binaries in the rhetoric
surrounding plagiarism. I fully agree that the mainstream media's focus
on plagiarism is a dualistic either/or portrayal somewhat along the
lines of students either as "duplicitous cheats" (4) or as "naive
innocents" (4) who don't understand what plagiarism is. As a corollary,
Selfe's article states that "the rhetoric associated with national
literacy projects serves to exacerbate the dangers that they pose"
(422). Our mainstream media - as it frequently does - takes an issue
that is always surrounded by multiple contexts and circumstantial
factors and condenses it into a sensationalistic diatribe aimed at
selling more ads.

Last spring, I attended a workshop on plagiarism led by Drs. Anson &
Dannels, one that really added some perspective to the issue: it placed
some of the responsibility for plagiarism directly upon the instructors,
something rarely seen. We, as instructors, have a responsibility to our
students to design assignments that force them to do their own thinking,
"plagiarism-proof" assignments. If you design unique, course-specific
assignments, it removes much of the opportunity students have to plagiarize.

Now for my own narrative/assignment. For the ENG 101 section I
currently teach, I assign a summary paper for one of four scientific
articles of my own choosing (all of which appeared within the past few
months). There are several supporting assignments built in, including a
paragraph that summarizes the basics of the article, which forces them
to choose only the most important information, which they then present
to a peer who read a different article. If the peer can understand the
basics of the report, then the student did well... I got a number of
comments from students telling me how helpful this assignment was in
constructing their papers. Before any work was done, students completed
a workshop about plagiarism.

Now for the "plagiarism proof" part. Because students had to use one of
four articles of my choosing, I was able to become quite familiar with
the articles. Because they had to further condense the article into a
single (3/4 page) paragraph, they already knew what was most important,
and had a good basis for a non-plagiarized summary. All of these made
the single instance of plagiarism disgustingly easy to find.

A student copied phrases and sentences directly from the article,
inserting them in the middle of paragraphs, into key support statements,
etc. Because of the nature of the assignment, it was far too easy to
spot his plagiarism and call him on it (apparently he was desperate and
late). He was decidedly nervous when handing this in - he knew what he
had done beforehand... Comments?

Technological literacy

The readings for this week address how new developments in communication
technology have heightened the importance of teaching literacy as an
understanding of the social implications of communicating in various
media, rather than as competent performance in those media. Selfe
outlines the social issues in demographic terms, while Slatin addresses
the new relationship between author and reader brought about by hypertext.
(One could hardly teach a hypertext genre in the classroom without
addressing this.)

Baron writes about the pencil as a communication technology (nothing
terribly new here), but he raises indirectly the question of why are we
now so interested in technological literacy, with the spread of computers
in the classroom, when we've been using communication technology for
thousands of years. What took so long? Maybe it's just my ignorance of
the literature that gives the illusion of a gap, but the questions that
Selfe raises could have been applied to writing versus speaking centuries
ago -- although, in fairness, Plato approached writing in a way that's
similar to Slatin, even if their value judgments on their respective
subjects differ.

The pieces on plagiarism illustrate nicely the implications of this notion
of literacy. Plagiarism and "fair use" can be understood only in terms of
the spirit of the law, rather than the letter, which requires a deeper
engagement with the issue, taking into account the source, context, and
purpose of the discourse and the medium. I teach my students in ENG 333
about plagiarism and ethical conduct near the beginning of the term. How
I approach this in the future may be affected by my deepening
understanding of the media in which I'm teaching them to communicate.

Christian Casper

School of the future

This is a CNN article that talks about the "School of the Future" opened by Bill Gates in Philadelphia this year.

This school has completely changed the educational process; from the way teachers write on the "board", to how students obtain resources and information. Even the cafeteria is different than those found in most schools.

I think it will be real interesting to study this place and how its using to technology; both from an educational perspective and from a sociological perspective as well.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

A collection of sorts...

First, a paper I was reminded of after the readings this week. Second, online word processing software that might be interesting our next discussion technology. As such, I'm working on my post for this week using it and seeing how/if the public document stuff works.

Update: So after some trouble with the web based word processor being slow I was able to get it working today. Might not be the best thing for us to use, but it did work for me to finish my post.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Technology in the writing classroom

My initial thoughts are related to Chad's discussion in class on
electronic genres and social action. In the paper I did for CRD 703 I
characterized communication by scientists in electronic newsgroups as
lying at the mediating point on the activity triangle, whereas print
genres (which, I would contend, includes the electronic editions of
journals) lie at the object point. Currently in ENG 333 we teach almost
exclusively object genres: research reports, reviews, oral presentations,
and posters. If I were to consciously teach communication in electronic
media in my course, it would imply that I would have to shift my focus
from exclusively object genres to include more mediating genres such as
email and discussion boards. Therefore, including electronic genres in my
teaching would require a dramatic shift in the focus of the course, from
looking at how to take "finished" work and present it to different
audiences to looking more at the communicative practices involved in the
ongoing *process* of research. Practically speaking, this would be
difficult, because not every student is currently involved in research,
and it would be difficult to simulate that experience for those who
aren't. I see this as substantially different from Lunsford's discussion
of the writing courses at Stanford, because I don't see her acknowledging
the substantial difference in social actions from an activity theory point
of view that can exist between print and electronic genres.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Digital Divide Separates Students

Here's an article that was just posted on CNN's website today which shows that elements of Selfe and Selfe's article are still applicable today. It appears that things are better than they were when Selfe and Selfe wrote their article, but we still have a long way to go.

P.S. Click on the title of the post to read the article.

by Adam

Monday, September 04, 2006


Together, the readings for this week help frame a focus on technology in Composition - which I hope will remain the subject of our discussions for the semester. The CCCC statement forms a context that we can hopefully use as a foundation for discussion that will hopefully be supplemented with insight from Communication. From the statement I see the two questions forming; (1) Technology for technologies sake? (2) Technology for pedagogy? It seems clear that we are basing our exploration on the later. But I will often throughout the semester find it helpful to return to these questions in my excitement toward technology.

Self & Self (S&S) along with Poster further help to guide my passion for technology with some important analysis. S&S work to expand cultural/race/ethnic/gender awareness of technology as a system. Though the discussion itself is dated technologically speaking, it does lend great weight to our second question: technology for pedagogy? So what might we think about from S&S when using blogs as a tool for teaching Composition?

First, notice the way the posts enter your reader or appear in your web browser. Are specific relationships encouraged by the technologies? Clearly we have more control over these built in relationships, but the types of critical awareness that S&S argue for are still useful. Poster would similarly have us focus on the way we relate to blogs. Do blogs encourage disciplinarity in a way that might be valuable in the classroom? I know I tend to draft – as I am now – my blog posting for a class in a way I do not do otherwise when using blogs. What sort of practice does this reflect? With the several questions and observations posted here, I am looking forward to reading and hearing everyone else’s thoughts.

Chad O'Neil

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Addressing the Implementation of Technology in the Classroom

As I read over the articles for this week's class and as I recall other
writings related to this subject, it would seem that their are two
outcomes that always arise when instructors attempt to implement
technology into their courses.

1) Instructors (usually younger ones) are so impressed and excited with
technological advancements, they look to find ways for technology to
completely replace existing educational methods.

2) Instuctors (usually older ones) acknowledge the changing landscape of
education and add technology to their course to complement existing
educational methods. These instructors provide students with the most
basic instructions in order for them to use the technology.

Neither of these approaches fully utilizes the technology's possibilies
for the classroom. Both scenarios involve using technology as a tool
instead of the way I feel it should be used, as a form of creative

The instructors in scenario 1 disregard proven educational tools with
reckless abandon in favor of technology. There is a reason why certain
methods have been used in the classroom for centuries; it's because they
work. To simply expect technological tools to be equal replacements is
irresponsible. Instructors should look to find way to complement
technology with existing educational methods.

The instructors in scenario 2 begin to do this, but do not take it far
enough. Their method leads to the use of technology becoming as stagnant
and uncreative as completing assignments using pen and paper has become.
The best example of this is the cliche that powerpoint presentations have
turned into. What was once a great tool to visually enhance one's speech,
is now being used by students like a cookie cutter. It's rare these days
to see a powerpoint presentation that you remember five minutes after it's
over. You can see these concerns regarding Powerpoint expressed in the
Lunsford article on p. 176.

Selfe and Selfe seem to understand this point as the refer to computers as
achieving "great good and great evil" (p. 484). However, their critque
explores the problem with technology as it relates to culture and race.
My concern comes from the failure to use technology as a creative
enhancement of one's work in the classroom. As instructors, we should
strive to get the best out of our students. We need to begin to look at
how technology can help us do that. This may difficult at times as it
would require instructors to have a more advanced knowledge of the
technology than the students. Difficult as it may be, we need to continue
to explore this subject if we hope to have technology benefit in the

Sorry for the long post, but hopefully it will produce some good
discussion in the class.

by Adam